Can Running Help Me Lose Weight?

A woman running near the Teton mountains in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Jordan Siemens/The Image Bank/Getty Images

"I've lost a couple of pounds on Weight Watchers over the past few months, but I want to speed up my weight loss progress. Will running help me lose weight?"

Running can definitely help you lose weight, especially if you're combining a regular running routine with cutting calories. Running is a full body workout and one of the most vigorous exercises out there, so it's definitely an efficient way to burn calories and shed pounds. Many people find running to help them lose weight and then maintain their desired weight, something that many dieters struggle with.

But, first, if you've never run before, make sure you check out the Absolute Beginners' Guide to Running before getting started. You'll also want to check with your doctor to get medical clearance for running, especially if you've been sedentary for six months or more.

To get started, you may find it helpful to follow a beginner training schedule. Here are a few free ones to take a look at and determine which one works best for you:

Proper Fueling is Key

Now, since your weight loss plans include dieting and running, it's important that you know how to properly fuel your runs. Some new runners who are also trying to lose weight end up giving up quickly because their low-calorie intake makes them feel too low-energy during their runs.

It's important that you make sure you're eating properly before your runs, after your workouts, and possibly even during your runs, if you're training for an endurance event such as a marathon.Get some tips on best foods for runners, which are very nutrient-dense and will give you the most bang-for-your-buck.

How to Avoid Feeling Hungry All the Time

Once you start a running routine, you may find that you start to get more hungry. That's completely normal -- your body needs more calories to fuel those workouts. The key is to make sure that you don't overcompensate and end up taking in more calories than you're actually burning. Some runners actually end up gaining weight when they start running!  It helps to eat five to six small meals throughout the day, rather than eating three big meals.

You can also make sure you get plenty of healthy, high-fiber foods in your diet. Most high-fiber foods require more chewing, which will help satisfy your hunger. High-fiber foods are usually bulky so they fill up your stomach faster and can also delay the time it takes your stomach to empty. Also, many high-fiber foods are low in calories, so you can feel full with fewer calories. Whole grains, vegetables, and fruits are great sources of fiber. Make sure that you have plenty of those healthy foods on hand so when the post-run hungries hit, you'll be ready and not tempted to give into cravings for empty calorie foods.

Also, to make sure you're not experiencing a false feeling of hunger, try drinking a glass of water. Try waiting a couple of minutes and if you feel satisfied, you're probably just thirsty. Stay hydrated throughout the day so you can ward off those thirst signals that feel like hunger pangs.

As you start running regularly, you may also be tempted to overindulge in fattening or high-calorie foods as a result of your hard work. Try not to use food as a reward. Instead, treat yourself to non-food rewards, such as new running gear or a massage when you reach a running goal. And follow these tips for controlling food cravings.

Get even more tips for running to lose weight: